Thursday, November 23, 2006

A sailor at the airport

At noon today I picked up my mom at the Austin airport. I love making the airport run these days. Instead of the hour-and-a-half plus, heavy traffic trip where we used to live, here it's a quick and easy 17 minute drive. I arrived a few minutes early, and delighted in watching the many happy reunions. Not an original thought surely. It's memorialized at the very least in Joan Didion's Play It As It Lays, and Kevin Smith's Dogma, but airports are places of human emotion. Sad goodbyes, cheerful greetings. It's where the human drama is played out.

One goofy young girl bends down to kiss her slightly smaller beau, gushing with blush and excitement. She doubles over giggling, sends me a look, then throws her arm around him as they walk away. Off to the right is a lone sailer. The real thing, not a five year old. A tall, sweet young guy. He carefully places his things just so as he begins to sit. Hair buzzed, in blue bells and uniform sailor top, he's so young. Standard issue duffel. My heart goes out to him. We see soldiers quite often here at the Austin airport, but this is my first sailor. Is he home for the holiday? Just out of training? He seems so careful with his things, so clean and formal in his uniform like it's brand new. Is he just about to ship out? I can't stop looking. For the first time I really get that he's just a year or two older than my son. I get that these are beautiful young kids who join the service for some kind of advancement and chance at a better life. These are the young kids that are fighting our wars. He was waiting. I didn't see who he was waiting for. I wanted to ask. I wanted to take a proper photo but was too embarrassed to walk closer. And then my mother arrived with her news and excitement. Thinking of him still.

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